Category Archives: Broader Social Justice

Immigrants in solidarity with Wisconsin workers!


Immigrant workers in the United States know what it’s like to be unfairly pitted against workers.  At FIRM, we believe supporting the rights of immigrants and the rights of all workers is the same struggle.

In fact, studies show that immigration reform would raise the floor for all workers.  And conversely, supporting the rights of workers helps all of us, including immigrants.  This is why immigrant communities are rallying in solidarity with Wisconsin workers.

This week, the state’s senate Republicans caught most of the world off guard by staging a late night meeting where they passed Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal that strips nearly all bargaining rights from public workers. The measure was passed despite the absence of all senate Democrats by removing all fiscal aspects of the bill, which in turn nullified the need for a quorum.

Mike Tate, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, told the Washington Post:

“The vote does nothing to create jobs, does nothing to strengthen our state, and shows finally and utterly that this was never about anything but raw political power,” . “We now put our total focus on recalling the eligible Republicans who voted for this bill. And we also begin counting the days remaining before Scott Walker is himself eligible for recall.”

Questions abound about the legitimacy of the move, but most interesting to me is this opinion from Milwaukee City Attorney Grant Langley who claims it is not constitutional.  The legality may be uncertain, but what is clear is that this bill is wrong for Wisconsin.  It’s wrong for workers. It’s wrong for everyone.

The bill now goes to the Republican-controlled House and then to the governor’s desk for signing. Walker, of course, is anxiously awaiting it.

The actions of Republicans in Wisconsin are in line with what seems to be the strategy of Republicans everywhere: divide our communities, do nothing to actually create jobs, destroy the unions who built America’s middle class, cut a thousand holes in the social programs safety net, cut funding that helps women and children, and give all breaks to the very wealthy.

The good news out of Wisconsin, news every Republican thinking of emulating Wisconsin should consider, is this: the push to recall the Republican state senators is gaining momentum.  It is awesome and inspiring to see the people rising up and pushing back.  This is what democracy looks like!

Meanwhile, if this story has your blood boiling, there is a simple way to get involved. Call Republican Gov. Scott Walker at 866-956-1737 and tell him NOT to sign this bill.

August is for conference-hopping

So not even 24 hours after arriving back from Netroots Nation, I headed to another conference – this time in DC. I’m at the Generational Alliance convening through Wednesday. The GA describes itself as:

..a strategic collaboration of organizations across the country that support the empowerment of low-income youth, youth of color, and LGBT youth who are pursuing progressive victories for their communities.

In short, I’m alongisde some amazing youth activists and organizers, talking about our collective vision for change and for our future. So, I haven’t had time to write up a Netroots Nation wrap-up yet, but I promise its coming. In the mean time, I will shortly be posting a Netroots wrap-up from my guest blogger, Robert Gittelson, who I finally got to meet in person at the “Si se puede 2.0” panel.

Netroots was an amazing experience – exhilirating, frustrating, exciting and challenging all at the same time. It definitely forced me to think about where I fit into the movement for immigrant rights and for social justice in general. More to come, but for now, suffice it to say last week provided me with plenty of food for thought.

Institutionalized Racial Profiling: U.S. Border Screening Under Fire

watching-you

Today the Washington Post reports on calls for a change in the border screening tactics used by the U.S. government. With personal, political and religious questions as an institutionalized part of these screenings, it is not suprising that the government’s “Terrorism Watch List” has topped 1,000,000 people. Yes, you read those zeroes correctly – our government currently has one million people flagged as potential terrorists.

Over the years, watch-list mismatches have entangled countless individuals whose names are similar to those on the government’s master database of terrorism suspects, which includes more than 1 million names and aliases used by 400,000 people.

Questions that are often included in these screenings are:

“What is your religion?” “What mosque do you attend?” “How often do you pray?” “What do you think of the war in Iraq?” “What charities do you contribute to?”

In response, Muslim Advocates have released a groundbreaking report on the targeting of Americans – because they are Muslim or perceived to be Muslim – by Customs & Border Protection agents for deeply invasive searches and interrogations.

The report, Unreasonable Intrusions: Investigating the Politics, Faith & Finances of Americans Returning Home, can be viewed here: http://www.muslimadvocates.org/documents/Unreasoneable_Intrusions_2009.pdf

The report contains dozens of stories of individuals who have shared with Muslim Advocates their experiences when returning home from overseas travel.  These experiences have taken place at land crossings and international airports – from San Francisco to New York, Detroit to Houston.  These Americans are young, old, male, female, a firefighter, military veterans, students, lawyers, doctors, senior executives with major high tech companies, and academic researchers at Ivy League institutions.

The report also lays out a comprehensive set of solutions for the President and Congress.  These solutions strike the right balance in upholding our nation’s founding values and keeping our nation safe and secure.

As the Washington Post reports:

The DHS has received more than 54,500 requests for redress since February 2007 and closed 31,000 of them, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Critics say the program does not inform travelers whether their names are listed, whether any change has been made or how to get off the watch list and avoid being relisted.

This issues, which fall into the broader category of Civil Rights violations, which are currently being investigated in Congress, must be dealt with head on by the administration.




Pastor Tazed, Beaten by Border Patrol in Warrantless Search

Below is a shocking post about the attack of a Pastor by Border Patrol agents accustomed to using fear and force to get their way. Sometimes we need to connect the dots. An injustice to one is an injustice to all. Think about it.

From Dave Bennion at the Immigrant Rights blog on Change.org:

According to this pastor, the State Security Apparatus decided to break his car windows, taze him repeatedly, and then stomp on his head because he refused to consent to a warrantless search and seizure in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.

The CBP officers who attacked Pastor Anderson must have gotten a little too used to terrorizing the undocumented and forgotten that citizens may not be so easily intimidated.  But the reason State Security jails, deports, or tortures foreigners has less to do with keeping citizens safe than with keeping them compliant.  Sometimes the mask slips a bit to reveal the ugliness underneath.

This search happened within the CFZ–the Constitution-Free Zone–that extends 100 miles inland from the border in which DHS conducts warrantless searches.  Two-thirds of the American public lives there.

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Another Year and More Hate Crimes Against Latinos

Earlier this week, the FBI released a report documenting Hate Crime Statistics in 2007. Much like every other year since 2003, the number of hate crimes directed at Latinos has increased.

From the Southern Poverty Law Center blog:

As anti-immigrant propaganda has increased on both the margins and in the mainstream of society — where pundits and politicians have routinely vilified undocumented Latino immigrants with a series of defamatory falsehoods — hate violence has risen against perceived “illegal aliens.” Each year since 2003, the number of FBI-reported anti-Latino hate crime incidents has risen (see table, below), even as a swelling nativist movement has become larger and more vitriolic.

Anti-Hispanic Hate Crimes

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Man Arrested for Death Threats Against Immigrant Advocate Group

With the increase in anti-immigrant rhetoric and hate speech that we have seen from many nativists in the mainstream media, it is no surprise that the number of hate crimes against Latinos has risen dramatically in the past few years.

Earlier this month, I posted on a North Carolina man who was arrested for making death threats he made against leaders of the National Council of La Raza.

In his email to NCLR, Szaz referred to Hispanics using a racial epithet and threatened to kill members of the staff and splay their bodies.  NCLR and other community advocates believe that this has to be seen as a part of a larger pattern of hate directed at immigrants, as the debate on immigration continues to loom in the national psyche. 

In yet another example of this larger pattern of hate, a Maryland man was arrested this week because of bomb threats he made against the immigrant rights group CASA de Maryland.

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What Civil Rights? This is post 9-11!

In yet another example of the erosion of civil rights we are witnessing in this country, the Bush adminitration passed more legislation in the ongoing “war on terrorism”. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

The Bush administration has overturned a 22-year-old policy and now allows customs agents to seize, read and copy documents from travelers at airports and borders without suspicion of wrongdoing, civil rights lawyers in San Francisco said Tuesday in releasing records obtained in a lawsuit.

The records also indicate that the government gives customs agents unlimited authority to question travelers about their religious beliefs and political opinions, said lawyers from the Asian Law Caucus and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They said they had asked the Department of Homeland Security for details of any policy that would guide or limit such questioning and received no reply.

So, unregulated workplace ICE raids, where people are lined up by race and then arrested, warantless wiretapping and now indefinite power for customs agents to harass travelers without ANY suspicion of wrongdoing. Does anybody else feel like this is a burgeoning police state?

This makes me think of the Pew Hispanic Center study released last week: they found that 1 in 10 Latinos living in the United States had been asked about their immigration status by government officials. The majority of Latinos living in this country are citizens, legal permanent residents or were BORN here. But they continue to be targeted by authorities because of their skin color, under the guise of “counterterrorism”.

Come on, America, you can do better than this.